Vitamins to Help Lower Cholesterol: Benefits, Dose and Safety

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Niacin is a B vitamin that can help lower cholesterol. A person can also take other dietary supplements, such as berberine and fish oil, to help lower cholesterol. However, people should only use these products after speaking with a doctor.

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that circulates in the blood. There are two main types of cholesterol: low density lipoproteins (LDL) and high density lipoproteins (HDL). Sometimes people call LDL “bad” cholesterol and HDL “good” cholesterol.

LDLs transport cholesterol and fats, such as triglycerides, to the cells that need them. HDL take excess cholesterol and fats to the liver, which removes them from the body. When there is more LDL cholesterol than HDL cholesterol can eliminate, it stays in the blood.

When this happens, fatty deposits called plaque can build up in the arteries. Plaque consists cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, fibrin and fatty substances.

This plaque buildup can increase the risk cardiovascular disease (CVD) such as heart attack and stroke.

Vitamins are substances, usually found in food, that the body needs to grow and function. Niacin is a vitamin that can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. However, people should not start taking it without talking to a doctor first.

This article will look at how niacin helps lower a person’s cholesterol. It also looks at other supplements a person can take, safety precautions, and alternatives to cholesterol.

Learn more about HDL and LDL cholesterol here.

Niacin, or nicotinic acid, is a B vitamin that can help lower cholesterol.

Although niacin occurs naturally in certain foods, there are two types niacin dietary supplements. These are nicotinic acid and nicotinamide. A doctor can prescribe nicotinic acid by prescription to treat high cholesterol.

The American Heart Association (AHA) states that nicotinic acid limits the production of fats in the liver. This lowers triglyceride levels and, therefore, lowers LDL cholesterol.

However, the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) notes that although niacin may lower LDL cholesterol, it does not significantly affect the risk of developing a cardiovascular event.

Prescription nicotinic acid is over 100 times recommended daily allowance, and therefore people should only take niacin under the approval and supervision of a physician.

Learn what causes high cholesterol here.

Dose

People should take the drug at bedtime after eating a low-fat snack.

A doctor generally prescribed 500 milligrams (mg) for 1 to 4 weeks to reduce the risk and severity of side effects. They can then increase the dose to 1,000–2,000 mg per day, depending on the individual’s needs.

Learn more about niacin here.

The AHA notes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate niacin in dietary supplement form. These products may contain higher or lower doses of niacin than indicated on the label. Always consult a doctor before taking niacin.

A person should never take the dietary supplement version of niacin to replace prescription niacin. Indeed, it can lead to serious side effects.

The ODS states that if a person takes dietary supplements containing 30 mg or more of nicotinic acid daily, they may develop the following:

Those who take 1,000 mg or more of nicotinic acid daily in drug form may experience:

Since niacin can raise a person’s blood sugar level, it Maybe not suitable for diabetics. High doses of niacin may also not be suitable for those taking statins.

Learn more about diabetes in our dedicated hub here.

Other dietary supplements that may help lower cholesterol include:

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)

Omega-3 PUFAs, also called omega-3 fish oils or omega-3 fatty acids, may help reduce blood triglyceride fat levels.

Omega-3 PUFAs are found in foods such as fatty fish, seeds and nuts. Supplements are also available. The AHA recommends that people use these supplements only under the care of their doctor.

Large doses can cause serious side effects, including:

In people with diabetes, omega-3 PUFA supplements can make it harder to control their blood sugar. People with a fish or shellfish allergy may have an allergic reaction to omega-3 PUFAs.

Learn more about polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) here.

Berberine

Berberine comes from plants such as goldenseal, barberry, Oregon grape and tree turmeric.

Some studies have shown that it can reduce LDL and triglyceride levels in the blood when combined with a healthy lifestyle. However, researchers don’t yet know if it will work for everyone.

Possible side effects of berberine include:

Learn more about triglyceride and cholesterol levels here.

flax seed

Flaxseeds contain α-linolenic acid, lignans and phenolic compounds, which can lower LDL and triglycerides in the blood.

The dietary supplement form of flaxseed is usually an oil.

Learn more about the best supplements for lowering cholesterol.

Other ways to lower cholesterol include:

Have a balanced diet

The best way for a person to help lower their cholesterol levels is to limit the amount of total and saturated fat they consume.

Saturated fats raise LDL levels more than any other food. Red meat, dairy products, chocolate, fried and processed foods all contain high levels of saturated fat.

Find out how much saturated fat to eat daily.

Exercise more

Exercise can increase HDL cholesterol levels in the blood. The AHA recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week.

Learn more about how exercise helps cholesterol levels here.

Take prescription drugs

There are many prescription medications for people with high cholesterol. They understand:

  • statins
  • cholesterol absorption inhibitors
  • bile acid sequestrants
  • PCSK9 inhibitors
  • adenosine triphosphate-citrate lyase (ACL) inhibitors

The right treatment approach will depend on the individual. This is why it is important for people to speak with their doctor if they are concerned about their cholesterol levels.

Learn more about cholesterol-lowering drugs and other remedies here.

The body needs a balance between LDL and HDL cholesterol. However, eating foods high in saturated fat can upset this balance, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Niacin is a vitamin that can help lower LDL cholesterol. However, people should only take niacin under the supervision of a doctor, as it can cause serious side effects.

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